“John S. McCain, the proud naval aviator who climbed from depths of despair as a prisoner of war in Vietnam to pinnacles of power as a Republican congressman and senator from Arizona and a two-time contender for the presidency, died on Saturday at his home in Arizona. He was 81.” R. D. McFadden, The NYT
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post With Answer Key
“A son and grandson of four-star admirals who were his larger-than-life heroes, Mr. McCain carried his renowned name into battle and into political fights for more than a half-century. It was an odyssey driven by raw ambition [and] the conservative instincts of a shrewd military man.
Nowhere were those traits more manifest than in Vietnam, where he was stripped of all but his character. He boiled over in foul curses at his captors. Because his father was the commander of all American forces in the Pacific during most of his five and a half years of captivity, Mr. McCain, a Navy lieutenant commander, became the most famous prisoner of the war, a victim of horrendous torture and a tool of enemy propagandists…To millions of Americans, Mr. McCain was the embodiment of courage: a war hero who came home on crutches, psychologically scarred and broken in body, but not in spirit…settling in Arizona, he won two terms in the House of Representatives, from 1983 to 1987, and six in the Senate.
He was a Reagan Republican to start with, but later moved right or left, a maverick who defied his party’s leaders and compromised with Democrats. He lost the 2000 Republican presidential nomination to George W. Bush, who won the White House...While he was a persistent and outspoken critic of the Obama administration, Mr. McCain had by 2013 become a pivotal figure in the Senate, meeting with Mr. Obama and occasionally fashioning deals with him. He joined a bipartisan group of senators, known as the Gang of Eight, that sought compromises on comprehensive immigration reform.
With the rise of Trump, the Republican flame thrower who steered American politics sharply to the right after his election in 2016 as the nation’s 45th president, Mr. McCain was one of the few powerful Republican voices in Congress to push back against Mr. Trump’s often harsh, provocative statements and Twitter posts and his tide of changes.
In his end-of-life memoir, Mr. McCain scorned Trump’s seeming admiration for autocrats and disdain for refugees. ‘He seems uninterested in the moral character of world leaders and their regimes,’ he wrote of the president. ‘The appearance of toughness or a reality show facsimile of toughness seems to matter more than any of our values. Flattery secures his friendship, criticism his enmity.’
Personal animus between Mr. McCain and Trump arose in the Republican presidential primaries in 2016. After months of boasts by Trump about his wealth, celebrity and deal-making as qualifications for the White House, and his dismissive capsule characterizations of climate change as ‘a hoax’ and the Iraq war as ‘a mistake,’ Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney, with standing as the previous two Republican presidential nominees, denounced Trump as ‘unfit for the presidency.’
‘Make no mistake, my friends, these are dangerous times,’ Mr. McCain said. ‘But you should not count America out, and we should not count each other out.’ As for Trump’s claim that his White House was operating like a ‘fine-tuned machine,’ Mr. McCain said, ‘In many respects, this administration is in disarray.’
John McCain’s Naval Academy memorial service and burial will feature two of his sons and Gen. David Petraeus. He will be buried Sunday at the Naval Academy Cemetery, next to longtime friend and academy classmate Admiral Charles Larson.
Trump won’t be there [ prior to his death, Senator McCain specifically requested that Trump not attend his funeral] but Defense Secretary James Mattis will be a pallbearer.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming
Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about Senator John McCain. Next, have students look at the pictures in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Regroup as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- Personal animus between Mr. McCain and Mr. Trump arose in the Republican presidential primaries in 2016.
- McCain suffered from a malignant brain tumor.
- John McCain was considered a maverick.
- McCain had the instincts of a shrewd military man.
- He was rebellious since childhood.
- McCain was a victim of horrendous torture and a tool of enemy propagandists.
- In his end-of-life memoir, Mr. McCain scorned Trump.
- Senator McCain warned Americans that Trump’s election might imperil the United States and its democratic systems.
- The Senator stated that the Trump administration was in disarray.
- The seven-year Republican drive to derail the Affordable Care Act had collapsed.
Directions: Review the following statements from the reading. If a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- John McCain was a senator from Texas.
- He was the son and grandson of four-star admirals.
- Two fighter Jets were named McCain, for the senator’s father and grandfather.
- McCain was a prisoner of war in WWII.
- John McCain won two terms in the House of Representatives and six in the Senate.
- He lost the 2000 Republican presidential nomination to Barack Obama.
- Senator John McCain and Trump are best friends.
- McCain’s wife donated to many charities.
- As a torture victim, Mr. McCain was sensitive to the interrogation of detainees in the fight against terrorism.
- John McCain suffered from a malignant brain tumor.
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary
Mr. McCain’s___ of Trump perhaps ___in July, after the [meeting with] Vladimir V. Putin of Russia___in ___ Finland…Responding to Trump’s ___ in which the president spoke favorably of his Russian counterpart and questioned American___ findings that the Russians had ___in the 2016 ___election, Mr. McCain declared, “No prior president has ever___himself more abjectly before a tyrant.”
WORD LIST: abased, presidential, interfered, intelligence, performance, Helsinki, privately, disapproval, peaked,
III. Post Reading Activities
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Discussion for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Place students in groups and have each group compose a letter or note to a person mentioned in the article telling her/him their thoughts on the topic. Share the letters as a class.
1-Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class.